House prices could 'take a year to recover'

Since restrictions were lifted by the Government earlier this week, estate agents are now free to open, non-essential moves can take place and surveyors and housebuilders can get back into business again. Around 450,000 property transactions have been left in limbo since lockdown, the Government's Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said at the daily Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday. But, with many potential buyers still fearful of Covid-19, a string property companies are now moving to online virtual house tours or implementing strict social distancing rules for in-person viewings. Meanwhile, a net balance of 96 per cent reported a drop rather than an increase in new properties coming on the market, marking the weakest reading since this question started being asked in April 1999. Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the Rics, said: 'Not surprisingly, the latest survey shows that housing activity indicators collapsed in April reflecting the impact of the lockdown. 'Looking further out, there is a little more optimism but the numbers still suggest that it will be a struggle to get confidence back to where it was as recently as February.  'Moreover, whether this can be realised will largely depend on how the pandemic pans out and what this means for the macroeconomic environment.' Last month, the Rics called on the Government to dish out a stamp duty holiday for buyers to ensure the property market gets going again.  Over 60 per cent of respondents to the Rics' latest survey for professionals think a stamp duty holiday would help sales recover.  Hew Edgar, head of UK government relations, said: 'Rics last month called on the UK Government to explore confidence-boosting measures for the residential market as it reopens, and the data suggests that our proposal for a stamp duty holiday would be a successful change that would boost transactional activity, helping people move home.' Housebuilding construction sites can apply to extend their working hours to 9pm Monday to Saturday in residential areas, with Jenrick adding that this should be approved by local councils unless there are 'compelling reasons' not to do so.